Cultivating STEAM Talent

Cultivating STEAM Talent

By Denise Molina-Weiger

STEAM LAB 2Employees with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) skills are crucial for research and development, creating and adopting innovations and working in technologically challenging jobs. In some fields, serious skilled manpower shortages are projected. That’s the case in health care, where there’s expected to be a shortage of physicians, nurses and other clinicians over the next decade.

“A 2018 Junior Achievement survey indicates students are more likely to seek STEAM-related careers if they are introduced at an early age and learn how these careers can help others,” said Noël Adams, director of operations for Jump Simulation. “For OSF HealthCare, cultivating this talent begins in middle school.”

Jump Simulation, a part of OSF Innovation, is working to unlock pathways to STEAM careers in a number of ways. This includes bringing different types of engineering into local schools, launching a variety of STEAM camps and offering undergraduate students one-of-a-kind opportunities to experience medical school and the clinical environment.

Testing the waters

Jump’s first foray into exposing children to STEAM-related topics began with a unique partnership in 2015. The center worked with St. Jude Catholic School in Peoria to bring engineers into the classroom to introduce engineering concepts to middle school children.

Jump engineers taught lessons on basic engineering principles, and students learned how to plan, design and build functioning prototypes and work in teams to develop medical solutions. Overall, they gained valuable knowledge on how engineering, paired with math, science, art and technology is solving real-world problems.

“The successful implementation of this project prompted us to expand this programming to the entire student community,” said Adams.

STEAM education for all

STEAM AnatomyIn early 2017, Jump launched half-day STEAM Saturdays and week-long Summer STEAM Camps designed to give sixth through twelfth grade students the chance to actively learn about everything from anatomy and physiology to medical visualization and engineering.

The hands-on nature of the STEAM programming allows participants to dissect different parts of animal anatomy, respond to emergencies using high-fidelity manikins, create their own virtual reality experience and even walk away receiving CPR certification. Hundreds of young people have participated in STEAM events at Jump.

“We have been overwhelmed by the positive response of the community,” said Adams. “Not only have we filled nearly all of the seats in these courses, but kids are enjoying the programming so much that they are returning for additional sessions.”

Jump’s work in STEAM education has attracted the philanthropy of area businesses. The PNC Foundation in 2018 awarded the OSF HealthCare Foundation a $400,000 grant, with a portion allocated to expand the STEAM program to students who are also patients at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois. The money is also funding 1,000 student scholarships over the next five years for low-to-moderate-income students to attend STEAM courses at Jump.

Jump hopes to continue attracting the best and brightest students in central Illinois to its multitude of STEAM courses. If you’re interested in supporting the Jump STEAM program, contact Erin Peterson at or (309) 566-5670.